ST. PAUL POLICE DEPARTMENT
EARLY HISTORY OF ST. PAUL IN 1838 — PIG'S EYE THE FIRST SETTLER — FIRST JUSTICE OF THE PEACE — GEN. SIBLEY AS JUSTICE — THE FIRST ARREST — PRIMITIVE GOVERNMENT OF PIONEER DAYS — FIRST MURDER — A SUSPICIOUS CHARACTER — ST. PAUL'S FIRST CHURCH, AND ITS INFLUENCE UPON THE SETTLEMENT — DIFFICULTIES IN HOLDING COURT, AND THE ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE IN EARLY DAYS — THE SETTLERS ALONG ABOUT 1848 OF THE BEST CLASS, SOBER, STURDY, INTELLIGENT AND MORAL — MINNESOTA BECOMES A TERRITORY IN 1849 — HON. ALEX. RAMSEY IS APPOINTED GOVERNOR — THE FIRST LEGISLATURE IN MINNESOTA — ST. PAUL INCORPORATED AS A TOWN IN 1849 — FIRST OFFICERS AND LAWS IN THE NEW VILLAGE — COURT HOUSE AND JAIL BUILT IN 1851 — SIMEON P. FOLSOM ONE OF THE OLDEST LIVING SETTLERS — ST. PAUL IS INCORPORATED AS A CITY IN 1854 — LAX METHOD OF DEALING WITH CRIMINALS — FIRST LEGAL EXECUTION IN MINNESOTA.
It is a current saying that "coming events cast their shadows before," and the steady growth of the city of St. Paul to its present state of empire shows no exception to the general rule. Shadows there certainly were, but history admits them to have been very vague; misty to a degree which in comparison to the practical reality of today seems wonderful. Father Louis Hennepin was the earliest known embodiment of a shadow of destiny. Clad in a coarse gray gown, with a peaked cowl and with feet encased in sandals, he was the first white man to set foot on what is now St. Paul.
And when on that April day nearly two and a quarter centuries ago Father Hennepin, Franciscan priest and successor of the early Jesuits, stood on the spot which is now the centre of a saintly city, did he send forth the dominant thought of the Society of Jesus, "The end justifies the means," as the abiding spirit of the place? Did he and all the devout who followed in his footsteps, spreading civilization, but also the doom of a race as they went, mark the vicinity as one most favorable for impregnating the very air with the fateful import of a magnificently subtle creed?
It would seem so, for today in summing up the greatness of a world-known inland city, the beauty of its architecture, the wealth and comfort of its people, and the strength of its municipal government, who is there to say that St. Paul, the visible end, does not justify a means, which never before, in all the annals of time, led an onward march to glory, and that is — whisky!
Diluted, adulterated whisky, so vile that an old Indian named Rattler fell dead as the result of an over dose, and yet its sale was the forerunner of the building of a mighty metropolis. In short, it was an ignoble cause which led to a great effect.
Today, in 1899, the city of St. Paul numbers all of 175,000 souls; sixty-one years ago, in the spring of 1838, it numbered one, old "Pig's Eye" Parrant, a Canadian voyageur, who lived by selling "firewater" to the soldiers of Fort Snelling and to Indians.
He had been driven away from the west side of the Mississippi by the authorities at Fort Snelling; his character, and personal appearance, as recorded, were such as to make him a generally undesirable neighbor; but he seems to have been not at all sensitive on that score, for his first act upon leaving the military domain was to plant himself across the river upon the southeastern boundary of the reservation and to erect a log hut at the mouth of the creek which then emptied into Fountain Cave, a lonely but picturesquely beautiful spot situated immediately above the site of the present City and County Hospital. Says a noted historian: "Thus was our city 'founded'. The location of the future capital of Minnesota was determined, by the commanding and picturesque bluffs, a noble and inspiring site whereon to build a city — by the great river flowing so majestically in front of it, suggestive of commerce and trade — and as a convenient spot to sell whisky without the pale of law!"
Other settlers, for the most part Red River colonists of French-Swiss extraction, who had taken refuge at Fort Snelling, soon followed, but of the earliest of these only one, a discharged soldier named Edward Phelan made open show of becoming a "business" rival of Parrant. The latter was, however, too conveniently situated to suffer any diminution of sales. It is a little curious to note that the first keeper of a "blind pig," was himself blind in one eye and that his other one "looked for all the world like that of a pig." Beyond a question old Pierre Parrant did a great deal of conscious harm, involving exquisite physical agony, what with transforming Sioux braves into demons by copious draughts of poisoned Minnewakan, and by rendering soldiers from the fort so insanely stupid as to be unfit to recross the river, much less to climb the fort bluff — but he might unconsciously have inflicted mental torment to an unparalleled degree had the aspect of his face been quite as attractive as the liquor he vended. His one little eye was, however, both sinister and frowning, and though the hamlet, then an embryo, unlettered Saint, was known as "Pig's Eye" for years after his removal from it, the remembrance of his generally unamiable qualities and ill-favored features, did much toward creating a popular demand for a change of name.
As a matter of police record, Pierre Parrant, who was all of sixty at that time, and should have known better, was probably the first culprit worthy of correction, as well as being the first settler, but although the then Indian agent, Major Lawrence Taliaferro, who lived in the little village of St. Peter's (Mendota) repeatedly ordered him off of Indian territory and later threatened to destroy his whisky cabin and to imprison him at Prairie du Chien, no arrest was ever made. His hut was thoroughly searched several times, it is true, but so shrewd was the "first Parrant" that only a few fingers of the vile stuff could ever be located. The hands were hidden — buried in the cave.
Major Taliaferro was virtually the first justice of the peace in Minnesota; it is historically stated by Neill, that he performed at least six marriages "for the sake of morality," between white men and Indian women, while possessing the power of magistrate prior to the appointment of Henry H. Sibley at St. Peter's as the first civil officer for the west bank of the Mississippi. Of the major quite a little is known, even at the present day, owing to the fact that he kept a well written journal of events, which is now stored away among the many treasures of the State Historical Society. He was a Virginian of Italian birth who had served in the war of 1812, and won the rank of lieutenant. That he was a good man and just in all his dealings is evidenced by the reverential regard accorded him by the Indians as their "Little Father" and in a general popularity among the few whites of the period. He was commissioned agent in 1819, and arrived at the post called St. Peter's in advance of the first regiment sent out to garrison the prospective Fort St. Anthony, which became Fort Snelling in 1822. Remaining twenty years he resigned and returned to his former home in Pennsylvania.
Mr. Sibley was appointed a justice of the peace in 1838, by Gov. John Chambers, of Iowa, which then embraced the territory west of the Mississippi as Clayton county, and his court was for ten years afterwards held in the village of St. Peter's or Mendota. During the same year (1838) Joseph R. Brown was appointed a justice of the peace for Crawford county, by Gov. Dodge, of Wisconsin, which then embraced the territory east of the Mississippi. Mr. Brown's office was at his trading post on Grey Cloud Island, twelve miles below St. Paul. But boundary lines were flimsy affairs in those days and little, if any mention, is made of Brown as a justice in St. Paul history. He certainly did not try the majority of cases involving the settlers of St. Paul. One of his best remembered decisions was given in a rather ridiculous land dispute between old "Pig's Eye" Parrant and one Le Claire. They could not determine the boundary line of their respective claims, and on appearing before Squire Brown confused him not a little, for he was in doubt as to his possession of jurisdiction over land. But to have voiced this doubt would have meant the confession of a lack of authority and consequently, diminution of his power over the simple French-Canadians of the vicinity. His love of a joke came to his rescue. With a grave face and an assumed sternness of demeanor, he decided that the strip of contested land belonged to neither, as it had not been properly staked out, and that it should belong to the first who did the staking. The result was an eight-mile foot race over bogs and sloughs, through swamps and dense woods. Le Claire won it, much to the disgust of Parrant, who forthwith left the vicinity and died soon after.
What fees Squire Brown charged can only be conjectured. Act No. 81 of the Legislative Assembly of Wisconsin Territory, 1838, allowed the following fees to justices of the peace in criminal cases:
|For a warrant||25|
|Taking a recognizance||25|
|Commitment to jail||25|
|For a search warrant||37½|
|Entering a judgment for fine or punishment||25|
|Discharging a prisoner||12½|
|Warrant for punishment||1¾|
|Order of discharge to the jailer||25|
But as the case in question, though a quarrel, was not a criminal case, Squire Brown may have received the usual stipend allowed in civil cases. Administering an oath and certifying same, 25c; entering judgment on trial, 25c. Total, 75c.
It is doubtful, however, whether he did not think the witnessing of an overly eager footrace sufficient payment for his erratic decision.
Henry H. Sibley was only twenty-three years of age when he arrived at Mendota, Nov. 7, 1834, as a partner of the American Fur Company, which then controlled the policy, mercantile, social and in a sense, religious, of the entire Northwest. He had traveled the distance between "St. Peter's" and Prairie du Chien, nearly three hundred miles, on horseback, encountering but one sign of human habitation, the log hut of an old French trapper, on the way. As he had studied law "back East" it was quite in order that he should hang out his sign in 1835. And although he never practiced the profession, being there were no courts to practice in at that time, the knowledge it afforded him proved invaluable in the settlement of many petty disputes between the company he represented and the fur traders who ranged the Mississippi valley. His appointment as a justice of the peace in 1838 was made with far more reference to the interests of the then Northwestern "lords of creation" than toward the establishment of local justice and the preservation of the peace. The American Fur Company, in control of the law, naturally grew prosperous. Most of the crimes of that day consisted of thefts of its property, and quarrels with its agents, and coming under the jurisdiction of a justice who was himself a member of the company appeals were naturally never made by the stronger side. As for the weaker, why should it appeal when "might made right," and how could it when there was no court within 300 miles to appeal to. Of Gen. Sibley's justice, however, little complaint was ever made. Speaking of his early life in St. Peter's he says in his reminiscences: "It was my fortune to be the first to introduce the machinery of the law into what our legal brethren would have termed a benighted region, having received a commission of justice of the peace from the governor of Iowa Territory for the county of Clayton. This county was an empire of itself in extent, reaching from a line some twenty miles below Prairie du Chien on the west of the 'Father of Waters,' to Pembina, and across to the Missouri river. As I was the only magistrate in this region and the county seat some 300 miles distant I had matters pretty much under my own control, there being little chance of an appeal from my decisions. In fact, some of the simple minded people around me firmly believed that I had the power of life and death. On one occasion I issued a warrant for a Canadian who had committed a gross outrage, and then fled from justice. I dispatched a trusty constable in pursuit and he overtook the man below Lake Pepin and brought him back in irons. The friends of the culprit begged hard that he should not be severely punished, and after keeping him in durance vile for several days I agreed to release him if he would leave the country, threatening — him with dire vengeance if he should ever return. He left in great haste and I never saw him afterward."
Had Mr. Sibley not been of strongly athletic build and extremely energetic disposition he would doubtless have found it difficult to cope with the rude spirits of that generation, an admixture of savage and frontier blood which did not take kindly to the trammels of an approaching civilization. But he was by nature a pioneer, having early imbibed the love of adventure and growth from a long line of pioneer ancestry, of whom traces are to be found all over the states of Ohio and Michigan. Although he himself mentions dispatching trusty constables to serve warrants, tradition has it that these constables were only faithful employes of the fur company commissioned afresh as each exigency arose, but it is also a matter of record that Mr. Sibley very seldom allowed the absence of a constable to interfere with an arrest which he considered needful. And he seems to have cared very little whether his prisoners belonged to his own side of the river or not. Stories which seem incredible nowaday are still current in regard to his vigorous methods of making arrests. An interesting account of some of his early experiences as a police officer and justice combined, is given by J. Fletcher Williams in his memoirs of H. H. Sibley, published shortly after the death of Minnesota's greatest pioneer in 1891:
"Some of the early settlers (of Mendota) used to say Sibley preserved order and discipline among his rough voyageurs by the actual use of the lash and bludgeon. Doubtless, if so, it was unavoidable. Gen. Sibley once related a case showing the trouble he had in managing his men. One of them, a powerful and desperate fellow, while intoxicated, insisted on picking a quarrel with Sibley, and defied him. Mr. Sibley said he saw no half-way measure would answer, or authority would have been gone forever. He knocked the rascal down with a blow of his fist and then pummeled him until he begged for mercy. Some of the man's pals took him away, unable to move, and it was reported that he had been seriously hurt. Some days afterward Sibley sent him word to come back and behave himself, which he did, and he never had any more trouble with the man, nor indeed, with any of the others. Once at Mendota a half-breed named Cornoyer was raising a row. Sibley took him under the arm and dragged him out of the ring. Cornoyer twisted his head around and looked up. Recognizing who had him, he exclaimed: "Oh, is it you, Mis'r Siblee? I'll give up."
Owing to the preservation of its own peace being very valuable to the American Fur Co., fees were the last thing thought of by Mr. Sibley in his capacity as justice, and it is generally believed that if he had been put to the expense of keeping a separate office, his rent would have dug deeply into his private purse. Certain it is that as the law of Iowa did not limit the charges of a justice, he could take or refuse whatever he pleased, and he probably did both. As it is recorded, however, that he was once given a choice of land now worth hundreds of thousands or twenty dollars in silver as a fee for trying a case before a Alankato court, having walked over snow and ice in midwinter all the way from St. Peter's to get there, and that he took the twenty dollars — was glad to get them — it is hardly to be supposed that he enriched himself greatly by becoming a civil officer.
Although the first murder was committed in territory not under his jurisdiction, that is, over in Pig's Eye, Crawford county, Wisconsin (and who would ever think the spot identical with St. Paul, Ramsey county, Minn., yet such it was) the supposed murderer, Edward Phelan, was at once arrested on a warrant issued by Mr. Sibley and bound over to the justice court of Mendota. John Hays, Phelan's partner in the "claim" business, and also joint owner of several cattle, had disappeared early in April, 1839, and as he was known to be the possessor of what was considered a snug little fortune for those days, suspicion at once attached to Phelan, who bore a rather unsavory reputation. The body of Hays, badly mutilated, with head, nose and jaw knocked in, as though by the force of violent blows, had been found near the mouth of Carver's Cave by some friendly Indians. On identification by a detail of soldiers sent by the commanding officer of Fort Snelling. Major Plympton, the body was secured and Phelan subjected to a rigid examination on the 28th by Justice Sibley. All evidence given served strongly to incriminate Phelan, and he was committed to answer the charge of murder in the first degree at the county seat of Crawford county, Prairie du Chien. And during the time which elapsed before the arrival of a steamboat Phelan was confined in the guard house at Fort Snelling. The trial at Prairie du Chien did not amount to much, however. In the absence of a record the supposition is made by old settlers that the grand jury did not find a bill against Phelan. At any rate, after being confined in the Fort Crawford guard house for nearly a year, he reappeared on the-streets of "Pig's Eye" in the spring of 1840, apparently neither a sadder nor a wiser man for his name is mentioned in both a brawl and a theft very shortly afterward. Of the charge of being Minnesota's first white murderer he has, however, been acquitted in the minds of many who at the time believed him guilty, for it is stated on good authority that a full confession of the crime was made by an Indian, Do-wau, the Singer, shortly before his death in the battle of Kaposia.
If a policeman of today were to undertake the arrest of all who constitute what would have been "suspicious characters" at that time he would have his hands full and probably be committed to the St. Peter of the present for his pains. A man named Johnson — and at that time even the name was odd in Pig's Eye — came to the hamlet in 1838 and built a cabin on what is now Seventh, near Kittson st. He was accompanied by a young woman and a child. There was nothing about their manner of living to indicate that they were not man and wife, but the fact was they talked too little, possessed too much refinement of manner and — dressed too well to suit the simple people of that period. Why should "Johnson" wear a silk hat, and broadcloth, and patent leathers if he were not a suspicious character, a refugee from justice, and why should both he and Mrs. "Johnson" seek to isolate themselves in a wilderness if she were only his wife and not the wife of another man? And how could "Johnson" put on so much style without working for a livelihood? Agreed, he must be a counterfeiter, come west to escape detection. Besides, had he not refused to open his door to a way-farer one rainy night? That surely showed a guilty conscience! So, with a definite conclusion arrived at, "Johnson" received a hint of the suspicions aforesaid and a threat that the "authorities at the fort," who seemed to inspire universal awe, were going to arrest him. Is it a wonder he left the community in disgust?
The "authorities at the fort" and the American Fur Company were the two great powers of the day, and though both occasionally overstepped the bounds of justice and mercy, who shall say that they were not needed to serve as factors in the development of a more than rude civilization. Try as they might, however, no effectual remedy could be found against the hordes of liquor sellers who were the immediate successors of old Parrant on the east bank of the Mississippi until the discovery was made by Major Plympton that they were really squatters on part of the government reservation belonging to Fort Snelling and could be driven off by law.
A report at that time, made by Brig. Gen. John E. Wool explains itself: "The white inhabitants, aware of the large amount of money annually paid by the United States to the Indians residing in that region of country, avail themselves of the means in their power, confident of the protection of the government, of introducing at all points and within half a mile of Fort Snelling intoxicating liquors, which is no less destructive to the discipline of the troops than hazardous of the peace and quiet of the country. Such is the character of the white inhabitants of that country that if they cannot be permitted to carry on their nefarious traffic with the Indians it will sooner or later involve them in a war with the United States. If the government would avoid such a result it should immediately adopt measures to drive off the public lands all white intruders within twenty miles of Fort Snelling and prohibit intoxicating liquors from being introduced into the United States, or on lands not sold by the United States."
Liquor, drunkenness, ignorance and crime! What little inducement, other than natural, there was for settlers of a better class to come here, and yet they came in such great numbers that only a few years afterward, when Pig's Eye, like Saul, had become a Saint, no question of its utter redemption from the follies of youth ever occurred to interfere with its material growth and prosperity.
When Marshal Edward James, of Wisconsin Territory, received the order from Secretary Poinsett, of the war department to expel all settlers from the reserve, he sent it to his deputy, Ira B. Brunson, to execute. Mr. Brunson gave the settlers several days' notice to evacuate, but as they paid no attention to his warning, he was obliged to ask Major Plympton for military assistance. And on May 6, 1840, every settler was driven off the reserve and his cabin destroyed by the soldiery, a fact greatly exaggerated in complaints still preserved.
Among these refugees there were, however, many orderly, quiet men of family, who immediately proceeded to erect new habitations further down the river forming the nucleus of the present center of St. Paul. And in 1841, finding a settlement had grown up on the landing where a year before he had been able to discover only a solitary cabin, Father Lucien Galtier, of the diocese of Dubuque, erected a little church "of tamarac poles" on what is now Second st., between Cedar and Minnesota sts. Because of his dedicating the chapel "to the memory of St. Paul" he wished the village named St. Paul and history never fails to remark that the citizens of a great and growing metropolis owe Father Galtier a lasting debt of gratitude accordingly.
In 1842 Henry Jackson came to St. Paul, "and with his arrival," says T. M. Newson, "the population was made greatly more respectable." Within a year he became first justice of the peace of the village, receiving his appointment from Gov. Dodge, of Wisconsin. Mr. Jackson was a Virginian by birth, but a Yankee in intuition and commercial sagacity. His first act after securing a home for himself and family was to add to it a stock of general merchandise, both liquid and dry, from the sale of which he derived a very considerable income. The land he occupied at that time is now bounded by Jackson and Robert and Second and Third streets. a rather imposing site for the erection of a two room log cabin!
A rather amusing incident of Mr. Jackson's ingenuity and adaptability to circumstances occurred just a few days before he received his commission as a justice. A couple came to him, asking to be married immediately. They were young and eager and thoroughly wrapt up in one another; now could he refuse their plea? And yet, how could he grant it? A thought struck him, he would marry them by bond, i. e., that in consideration of their giving him a bond for their reappearance to be legally married he would allow them to live together as man and wife, in the meantime. No sooner said than done, but whether the "joined by proxy" pair ever did reappear is another question. It was probably a matter of just how heavy the bond was, and as that is not stated, who shall tell?
As a justice of the peace, merchant and saloon keeper combined, Jackson soon became quite a power in the village, and though it seems doubtful whether he could very justly dispense both law and whisky at the same time, his personal influence seems to have held unlawfulness in check to a great extent, inasmuch as there is not a crime of any importance mentioned as occurring during his regime. The Indians had by this time become less troublesome, owing to the efforts of Rev. T. Williamson, who established a mission school at Kaposia. His coming was brought about in a curious way. The Dakotahs had been growing worse from year to year and daily subjected the early settlers and their wives to coarse and brutal scenes, as well as constant fear for their lives. During one of these periodical sprees, in 1846, Little Crow, Jr., a Sioux warrior of no mean degree, was shot by his own brother, and on becoming sober, determined to put an end to the Minne-wakan trips forthwith, by having a missionary live in his village, a request which was readily granted by the resident Indian agent.
The battle of Kaposia, fought between the Sioux and the Chippewas, who were hereditary enemies, had occurred not long before that and to illustrate what danger the whites of a community incurred through their frequent conflicts it is interesting to note that in 1840, the legislative assembly of Wisconsin passed "An act for the relief of Jos. R. Brown, to-wit: That Jos. R. Brown be granted a divorce from Margaret Brown, a half-breed Chippewa, on-account of the danger that both incur from invasions of the Sioux." The Chippewas or Ojibwas occupied the east bank, while the Sioux or Dakotahs, roamed the west bank of the Mississippi.
But what with changing its name, St. Paul had, with the forming of St. Croix county, Wisconsin, of which the mention of Jos. R. Brown serves as a forcible reminder, changed its county seat from Prairie du Chien to Stillwater or Dak-kotah in 1840. Squire Brown, who had urged the measure, became clerk of courts. Had this been a salaried position he certainly would have had a "snap job," for the first court held in Stillwater, as well as the first court ever held in what is now Minnesota did not convene until 1847. It is true an attempt was made in 1842 to hold a court in St. Croix county by Judge Irwin, one of the territorial judges of Wisconsin, but it proved a signal failure. Alluding to the circumstance Judge C. E. Flandrau says, in his "Territorial Lawyers and Courts:"
"It came about in this way: There was a very enterprising settler here then, named Joseph R. Brown, who came to Fort Snelling with the regiment which laid the corner stone of the fort in 1819, and was discharged from the army in 1826, or thereabouts. In 1842 he was clerk of the courts of St. Croix county and for some reason best known to himself procured the legislature of Wisconsin to appoint a court in his county. Judge Irwin came up to hold it, and on arriving at Fort Snelling he found himself in a country which indicated that disputes were more frequently settled with the tomahawk than by the principles of the common law. The officers of the fort could give him no accurate information but fortunately he discovered Norman W. Kittson at his trading house near the Falls of Minnehaha. Kittson knew Mr. Brown, the clerk, who then lived on the St. Croix river, near where Stillwater now stands, and directed the judge to him. He furnished a horse, and his honor struck across the country and found his clerk, who had either forgotten all about the court or had never heard of it. The disgusted judge took the first chance down the river, a very angry man."
Another account says that in place of Stillwater he found a wilderness and that when he looked for Squire Brown at the one desolate cabin of the place, he found a Mrs. Brown in the person of an Indian woman, who could only speak a few words of English and who said the squire was down at Gray Cloud. And when on arriving at the latter place he found Mr. Brown entirely unaware of his coming, it is no wonder he was disgusted with the ways of the wild, new West.
At the time the first court was really held by Chief Justice Dunn in June, 1847, there was only one important case on the docket. An Indian chief named "Wind" was supposed to have murdered Henry Rust, a lumberman of the St. Croix district, and was indicted accordingly. But the jury, and this was the first trial by jury held in any part of the region now embraced by Minnesota, acquitted him. It is very likely that their verdict was much to the satisfaction of both the judge and the lawyers who were present, for it seems that the holding of a regular term of United States district court by the chief justice had caused so much interest among the attorneys of the region as to have them make it the occasion of a genuine social excursion to the Falls of St. Anthony. And as they were all accompanied by their wives and Judge Dunn by his daughter, the sight and knowledge of a condemned murderer might have interfered seriously with the pleasure of the ladies, if not of the entire party.
The administration of justice in those early days was attended by many curious phases. During the summer of 1848, in the justice court held by Henry Jackson, an affair occurred which is so extremely ridiculous as to bear retelling. An ordinary case had been tried and submitted to the jury, confined in a little addition which had only one high outside window. There was, among the six jurors, a violinist named Charlie Mitchell. who was in continual request for weddings and balls, and it so happened that on that very evening a ball was to be given in Stillwater. When the man who had been sent to hire the fiddler arrived on the scene and found the latter locked up indefinitely he became very much excited and his nervousness increased as the afternoon wore on, leaving less and less time for the return homeward. Unfortunately for him the jury had seen fit to disagree, and some of its members had begun to indulge, in profane bits of temper, when all of a sudden the head of the Stillwater man was thrust through the window and the violinist heard his name called. The subsequent conversation carried on in an aside between the perched-up stranger and the fiddling juryman, afforded too good a weapon to one of the disagreeing jurors, and springing up from his seat he accused the latter of conspiring falsely and accepting a bribe. This brought the matter to blows, and blows of every description, chairs and tables being brought into play, until three of the jurymen were pounded beyond recognition. The fiddler, of course, was one of them, and as a result of his badly swelled head, the ball was not given in Stillwater that night.
About this time in May, 1848, Wisconsin was admitted as a state and the embryo of Minnesota, as the cast-off remnant of a territory, was left without a government. But a remarkable change had taken place in the character of the early settlers during the past decade, and the condition of affairs was not nearly as alarming as it would have been in 1838, when a generally crude state of existence often led to lawlessness unknown to clearly defined civic life. The population had become, by gradual admixture of all the sober, sturdy elements which go to make up the life of the average French-Canadian farmer and by a dimly perceptible influx of middle eastern brains and ideas, almost Arcadian in its habits of life. Rural simplicity, kindliness of manner and lack of mercenary ambition were its chief attributes; the power of the great world beyond the Mississippi to disturb its quiet or impel its growth was as yet undreamt of. Speaking of the period immediately preceding the establishment of a territory, Mr. Sibley says in a letter published by the Washington Union in 1850: "I would remark in conclusion that the people of our territory are distinguished for intelligence and high-toned morality. For the twelve months or more prior to the establishment by congress of a government for Minnesota, although in the anomalous position in which it was left by the admission of Wisconsin into the union as a state, it was uncertain to what extent, if any, laws could be enforced, not a single crime of any magnitude was committed."
The bidding in of the town-site of St. Paul affords an apt illustration of the primitive simplicity but also extreme tenacity of purpose characteristic of the pre-territorial settlers. Being very much afraid that a crowd of greedy, grasping speculators would over-bid them for their own claims at the government sale, they entrusted Mr. Sibley with the purchase of the entire townsite. In relating the circumstance, Mr. Sibley says "When the hour for business had arrived, my seat was invariably surrounded by a number of men with huge bludgeons. What was meant by the proceedings I could, of course, only surmise, but I would not have envied the fate of the individual who would have ventured to bid against me."
The most curious part of the whole affair, in the light of modern business distrust, is the fact that many of the French-Canadians, speaking little English and ignorant as to the forms and conveyances of law, suffered their titles to remain in Mr. Sibley's name two or three years, thinking them safe in his possession, and finally had to be quarreled with in order to make them properly sign the deeds and register them.
On March 3, 1849, Minnesota became a territory. Some of the arguments advanced by members of congress against the admission are "funny" in the extreme. In a speech by the Ohio member of the House, the following burst of elocutionary extravagance occurs:
"When God's footstool is so densely populated that each human being can only occupy two feet square, then, but not until then, will a white man go to that hyperborean region of the Northwest, fit only to be the home of savages and wild beasts."
And yet they came! With the beginning of the winter of 1848-49 there were eighteen families living in St. Paul; early in the following April there were thirty, and a census taken in July, 1849, shows that the village contained 840 people. That meant at least one hundred roof trees, estimated at the usual size of French-Canadian families.
Hon. Alexander Ramsey was the first governor; Hon. Aaron Goodrich, the first chief justice, and Col. Alexander M. Mitchell the first marshal of Minnesota Territory, all three appointments being made by President Taylor.
From the day of his arrival in St. Paul May 27, 1849, to the present time, when as a well-preserved old gentleman of eighty-four, he is still accounted one of the familiar figures of the city streets, Gov. Ramsey has never failed to manifest a deep interest in the material progress of the community of which he was also the second mayor. He was born at Harrisburg, Pa., Sept. 8, 1815, and inherited all the elements of hardy strength and unflinching perseverance concurrent in the blood of a vigorous Scotch-German ancestry. Being left an orphan at a tender age he was early forced to earn his own living and when only thirteen years old was employed in the office of register of Deeds of Dauphin county. Later he became a student of Lafayette college, and in 1837 entered a law office in Harrisburg. He was admitted to practice in 1839 and soon after took a prominent part in the political affairs of his native state.
As chairman of the Whig State committee, in 1848, he contributed largely to the election of Gen. Zach. Taylor to the presidency, and in return was tendered the governorship of the new Territory of Minnesota.
But what a scene of future dominion met his eyes on that May day fifty years ago when he walked up from the landing into the streets of the village which had been designated as the capital of Minnesota! Deep ravines and gurgling brooks, and any number of hills covered with brush, with here and there an isolated board cabin or a pole shanty to show a sign of life, while on either side of the river Indian tepees studded the bluffs and birch-bark canoes lined the banks! Civilization on the east side represented by groups of keen-eyed, bronze-skinned traders eagerly discussing the Political situation over the bar at Henry Jackson's; by swarthy Canadian Frenchmen, sitting beside their hovel doors, peacefully smoking their pipes and ever and anon smiling proudly at the innumerable little steps of humanity running hither and thither; by pioneer women of rugged build making a score of beds and cooking dinners in the same room; and, sometimes, by Indians in gorgeous array carrying home the Minne-wakan purchased with skins and furs and beaded nick-nacks! On the other side of the Mississippi, where West St. Paul now rears its stately dwellings and tall church spires, Indian squaws built camp fires and cooked, and constructed wigwams, and canoes, so that their lords should be able to enjoy life in all the fullness of the firewater procured across the river. Perchance, too, they crooned in the meanwhile to the poor little pappooses strapped across their backs. It may be, all things may be, where there is no record, no foot-print, to show for what has passed away, forever beyond human ken.
Gov. Ramsey was at that time a man of such pleasing personality, such force of character and intellectual acumen, as to forthwith make him a power throughout the new territory. And even as he was known for his extreme graciousness to all, rich and poor alike, in that early day, so now, after the passage of half a century, he still retains the love and veneration of a whole city, ready to rise "and call him blessed!"
Judge Aaron Goodrich, the first chief justice, was born in Sempronius, Cayuga county, N. Y., in 1807. As a young man he practiced law in Tennessee, and was elected as a whig to the legislature of that state, later becoming a presidential elector on the whig ticket. Shortly after President Taylor's inauguration in 1849, he was appointed chief justice of the infant Territory of Minnesota. This was the beginning of a residence of all of thirty years, during which the judge as a prominent politician, a leading and charter member of secret and benevolent societies, and a brilliant writer on all topics of the day, became an invaluable factor in the molding of a city. He was a man of marked individuality, positive in all matters and radical in his denunciation of hypocrisy and petty meanness. His decisions, handed down to the children of Time, are uniformly just and fair, showing the breadth of heart which lay beneath the folds of his judicial robe. He lived to be eighty.
As an example of his intolerance of petty injustice the story of the strong fight made by him in 1854 for the repeal of the debtor's law, which was passed by the legislature of 1849, is often told. The little wooden jail, built the following year, was frequently filled with honest, though unfortunate men, and one poor fellow died in it because he could not meet the demands of his creditors. But owing to the efforts of Judge Goodrich and a member of the House, named Davis, the obnoxious law was never allowed to stain the records of St. Paul after it became a city.
Of Alexander M. Mitchell, the first marshal, not a great deal is known, save that he was a North Carolinian, who graduated at West Point, that he studied law at Yale, and enlisted in the Mexican war, that he became a colonel, was wounded, and shortly after appointed marshal of Minnesota in 1849. Also that he was uniformly spoken of by all who knew him as a genial, whole-souled man, afraid of nothing under Heaven, and unfair at times only to himself.
In July, 1849, Gov. Ramsey commissioned John A. Wakefield a justice of the peace, the first office of the kind given in the Territory of Minnesota. In the subsequent first legislative assembly, which convened that fall, fees of justices were fixed as follows:
|For a summons, warrant or subpoena||25c|
|For a venire||25c|
|Swearing a jury||25c|
|For taking recognizance to bail||25c|
|For committing to jail||25c|
Not much is remembered of Mr. Wakefield, who resigned in favor of (Judge) Orlando Simons, the following November, save that he was a good temperance lecturer and an excellent writer.
The Territorial Legislature of 1849 remained in session sixty days, convening on the 3d day of November. Among other acts passed was one creating nine counties, one of them the county of Ramsey, with St. Paul as its county seat. And on Nov. 1 a bill was approved, incorporating the "Town of St. Paul." It included a provision for the election, every sixth day of May, of one president, one recorder and five trustees, each for the term of one year, the same to constitute a Town Council. They were empowered to appoint a treasurer and a marshal, and other subordinate officers. The president was also to be a justice of the peace, ex-officio, in all matters, civil or criminal.
C. V. P. Lull was the first sheriff of Ramsey county, receiving his appointment from the governor immediately after the adjournment of the legislature. He was a New Yorker and a carpenter, a very energetic and peculiar man, though well liked by his day and generation, some of whom will even now associate the idea of early justice only with the name of Lull. He did not neglect his business on account of being sheriff; a standing "ad," in the Pioneer of 1849, reading "C. V. P. Lull, House Builder, St. Paul House," testifies to that, but it is a matter of record that during the period when the town of St. Paul was without a jail many a suspect had to spend the night on a bed of shavings in Sheriff Lull's shop, while awaiting trial.
Meanwhile, a jail was an affair of the near future. A prize of $10 was offered in December for the best plan combining a court house and jail in one and it was won by Dr. David Day.
During the fall of 1849 a murder, the first murder in the new town, had been committed. A half-witted boy named Isaiah McMillan had shot a play fellow, Heman Snow, in the head, killing him almost instantly. His trial was the principal feature of the first district court held in Stillwater, by Judge Cooper, the following February.
The announcement of the proceeding seems almost savage in its lack of charity. Says the Minnesota Pioneer of Feb. 20, 1850:
"Isaiah McMillan, alias Slarkey, a boy about thirteen years old, indited as a murderer for shooting his schoolmate, Heman Snow, last fall in St. Paul, was tried last week in Stillwater and found guilty of manslaughter. Nothing but the most able and ingenious defense of counsel saved the boy from the halter. For prosecution Messrs. Wilkinson & Bishop, for defense Messrs. Moss and Ames." Then in another column appears the heading: "Homeopathic"! Beneath it may be read: "Judge Cooper has sentenced Isaiah McMillan, who killed Heman Snow, to the penitentiary (which meant Fort Snelling) for one year and twenty days of solitude in broken doses of ten days each."
Friday, Feb. 22, 1850, the second homicide occurred. While intoxicated Alexander McLeod killed William Gordon down in the same "Swede Hollow" which has since that day seen so many affairs of a like nature. Upon examination by Justice Wakefield the evidence was adduced that Gordon had struck McLeod with a whip at the beginning of the fray and that the latter had used his fists in self-defense. At any rate, he was acquitted on this plea when his case was tried at the first term of court held in Ramsey county, Chief Justice Goodrich presiding, April 8, 1850. The brilliance of his counsel, Hon. Edmund Rice, a prominent pioneer and later a most efficient mayor, had probably much to do with McLeod's release. Out of the twenty-five lawyers then resident in the village he had certainly chosen one of the ablest. This first term of court also marked the session of the first grand jury ever drawn for Ramsey county. There were thirteen indictments found, principally against the proprietors of gambling resorts.
It seems, however, that even as a grand jury, the session was not quite up-to-date, for, says the record, "Some of them reported for duty." Not all!
On May 6, according to the provisions of the town charter, the first election of "house-holders of the town" was held. Dr. Thomas R. Potts became president of the council, an office equivalent to that of mayor in a later day. Dr. Potts was born in Philadelphia and early received a very substantial education, graduating at the University of Pennsylvania when only twenty-one. After practicing medicine in several Mississippi ports he located permanently in St. Paul, and at the time of his death, in 1874, was known as the senior practicing physician of the city.
The rest of the officers elected were: Recorder, Edmund Rice; trustees, W. H. Forbes, B. F. Hoyt, Wm. H. Randall, Henry Jackson and A. L. Larpenteur.
Reading the first ordinances passed by the council of the little "place" which had so recently attained the dignity of town-ship, one is forcibly reminded of some of the rigid decrees enforced by the founders of the first thirteen colonies. In order to secure "peace and quietude" severe penalties were prescribed for disturbing the quiet of any street or neighborhood by "blowing horns, trumpets, or other instruments," or by "the calling of drums, tambourines, kettles, pans or other sounding vessels," or by "singing, bellowing, howling or screaming, scolding, hallowing or cursing."
But it was in the matter of Sabbath observance that the views of the early fathers of a municipality most closely resembled those of the Puritans. On a Sunday, no person was allowed to "make unusual noise," to "play at any game of amusement" to "sell or give vinous, spiritous or malt liquors." All steamers were directed to "moor quietly, discharge passengers, and proceed on trips in quiet, orderly manner." The ringing of bells and blowing of whistles was strictly prohibited. Nor were they permitted to land freight on that day. In a record of early fines occurs that of the Galena "for discharging freight on Sunday, $22.50."
In June of that year a council of Sioux and Chippewa chiefs, with their agents and interpreters, was summoned by Gov. Ramsey to meet at Fort Snelling for the purpose of looking into recent Indian butcheries and to consummate one of the innumerable treaties of peace between red men which were being continually made and just as continually broken. Try as they might to confine the savages to the same laws of civil intercourse as the whites, no ordinances of the council or acts of the legislature proved equal to the emergency. The Indian braves were bound to do just as they pleased, be it to engage in murder and rapine among themselves, or in becoming general nuisances to the white settlers. Many a timid little woman of that time has still her tale to tell of the insolent invasions of her kitchen by the redskins, and of how she would bid her children go run and hide themselves the while she dealt out bread and meat and then bravely, and oh, so tremblingly, bade the intruders "Puck-a-chee" (begone) in her most severe tone of voice.
At about this time the editor of the Pioneer devotes a goodly portion of a column to denying reports then in circulation regarding the disorderliness and immorality of St. Paul, substantiating his remarks by a review of all the influences for good then extant in the community. Religious services held in five churches, and well attended; Sunday decorously observed even by non-attendants; drunkenness and gambling not openly carried on, and a growing system of public schools which would soon become a power for the undermining of municipal vice.
In the light of above editorial it is rather interesting to note that Mr. Goodhue's successor in 1852 was Joseph R. Brown, the eccentric squire of a past decade, and a still more erratic though always good-natured and large hearted editor of the era under discussion. He too, was much interested in the question of morality, but he thought St. Paul possessed too little of it and as he was a member of the senate he framed a bill "for the suppression of immorality." When read aloud by the clerk of the senate it produced no visible effect until the final clause, "Resolved, That to advance the moral character of the community no person shall be permitted to hang the undergarments of either sex on a public clothes-line, as such an act is detrimental to the public morals of the people" was reached. As may be imagined it produced an explosion of merriment quite equal to that occasioned by the later popularly famous "McHale Bill." And it was shelved in quite a similar manner, postponed — indefinitely. So much for the morals of St. Paul town!
In August, 1850, at the first county election, two constables, Warren Chapman and Warren Woodbury, were given office, with an unlimited salary payable in fees. The spoils of office did not amount to much in those days, however, for with the highest possible set of fees aggregating $1.25, and a county of 2,197 souls as a total population to draw from, a constable could never dream of getting rich.
But to accommodate constables and all their numerous, albeit forced, hangers-on, a court-house and a jail were eminently necessary. The guardhouse at Fort Snelling had done duty long enough; and besides, there was a growing demand for a home institution — wherein to punish violators of the law. In order to raise the money for so much building, the County Board ordered the issue of some county bonds and the court house corner stone was laid early in the spring of 1851. When finished and ready for occupancy more than a year afterward, it was an imposing structure and quite as commodious and complete as it was handsome. Built of stone taken from near-by quarries, it was a model of simplicity in architecture, with its Corinthian pillared porch and dome-shaped tower.
Freeman and Daniels were the contractors and the cost of the building was somewhere in the neighborhood of $9,000. It occupied the site of the present city and county court house.
The little old jail stood immediately in back of it, and was a much inferior edifice. Built of logs and weather-boarded, it is small wonder that this first prison of Minnesota was seldom used to effectually corral real criminals inasmuch as they usually escaped soon after entering its portals.
There were some five or six tiny rooms in it, and the windows, though well removed from the ground, were covered over with circular iron bars, wide enough apart to admit of any and all outside communication desired.
But such as it was it served the need of the times fairly well. Considering all things the little town had at this period of its development no one feature to be more proud of than of its generally good government. Border ruffianism, then rampant on the Pacific coast, and requiring the creation of vigilance committees, was unknown; "Judge Lynch" was not in existence, and with the exception of an occasional too boisterous "chivari," which resulted in riot and bloodshed, St. Paul was quite as orderly and well-behaved a little settlement as could be found anywhere in the Northwest. In speaking of those days, Mr. Simeon P. Folsom, first city surveyor, and one of the oldest living settlers of St. Paul today, says that though a town marshal's duties were such as might properly fall to a chief of police and a dozen subordinates, he was never kept busy enough to be in evidence.
Early in January Justice Orlando Simons was reinforced by Bushrod W. Lott, who received 182 votes to John F. Tehan's 119. And as a salve for his wounded feelings the latter, immediately after the charter election, was appointed town marshal by the council. Tradition has it that he made a very good one.
It is a little difficult to ascertain just in what particular the offices of sheriff and town marshal varied at this period. Minute records have been preserved of a fight which occurred on Jan. 15, 1851, between Col. Goodhue, of the Minnesota Pioneer, and Joseph Cooper, a brother of Judge Cooper, in regard to an editorial which "roasted" the latter "to a brown finish." On meeting both drew pistols, and Mr. Cooper intimated that he would blow Goodhue's --- --- brains out. With this Sheriff Lull ran up and separated the combatants, though is would seem as if the town marshal should have been on hand to do the interfering. The affair ended in Cooper's receiving a shot which rendered him a permanent invalid, while Goodhue escaped with a slight knife cut.
St. Paul was as yet a little village! Angry discussions of the merits of the case, pro and con, prevailed on every street corner, and as a last resort a public meeting was held in which peace resolutions were passed proving an effectual aid to the restoration of general good feeling.
From that time on until the incorporation of the city of St. Paul, in 1854, elections and murders seem to have been the chief affairs worthy of municipal record. Robert Kennedy and Bushrod W. Lott succeeded Dr. Potts as president of the town board, and Michael Cummings and John M. Castner were the last town marshals.
Be it remarked that a town marshal in those primitive days had to rely solely on his strength of fist and skillful handling of a weapon, in the matter of enforcing authority, for he wore neither uniform nor badge whereby to distinguish his calling and command obedience.
Of the murders committed during 1852 and 1853, some five or six in all, and among them a wife-murder, only one perpetrator was brought to justice. All the rest escaped and when one reads how easily an escape was effected, one is also tempted to question the need of early police courts or police power, inasmuch as the only prisoners of the law seem to have been children and Indians, either too weak or too proud to fly the country.
A singular paragraph appearing in a paper of that day, plainly illustrates the lax-ness of local police government in 1852.
"Perfectly Indifferent. Shipler took so little interest in his suit that he actually put out without waiting to hear the judgment of the court, and has left town."
Think of a modern prisoner on trial for assault with intent to kill, trying to "put out" of a court-room, and to leave town! And, what is more, to succeed in so doing.
It seems that, with a little discrimination as to the color of the victim the Indians could also find escape an easy matter. One morning the body of a Winnebago Indian, nick-named "Dr. Johnson," was discovered in a clump of bushes near the centre of town. On taking charge of it Sheriff Lull and the county coroner decided that the man had been stabbed by a member of his own tribe, having been last seen in company with several other braves, and forthwith a detachment of soldiers was sent to apprehend the murderer at the Winnebago encampment. The question being put to the Indians assembled, one of them, Standing Lodge, coolly replied "I did it!" explaining that he had acted in compliance to a decree of his tribe which adjudged his victim deserving of death.
On being told to accompany the squad, Standing Lodge gathered up his blanket and without a word of protest, marched into town, unfettered, unresisting, an impersonation of stern and savage stoicism being led to the sacrificial altar of civilization. As the jail was not finished he was kept in Sheriff Lull's carpenter shop and did not make an effort to escape, much less to conceal his guilt, for at the preliminary examination he repeatedly answered "I did it."
As the county did not care to bear the burden of his board and keep he was released on his own recognizance until the next meeting of the grand jury. And when he heard the number of days he was to stay away, he cut a corresponding number of notches in the stick he carried.
Most of the townspeople never expected to see him again and were greatly surprised to find him sitting on the court-house steps the very day of the opening. But perhaps his was a case of tempting Fate and getting left. At any rate, being he had murdered "only an Indian," public sentiment discouraged his prosecution and though he daily attended the sessions of the jury and nightly slept on the shavings of the sheriff's carpenter shop, the case was never brought to trial, a shoving over to the next term of court resulting in dismissal.
But the Indian who murdered a white woman, Mrs. Keener, in October, 1852, fared in a vastly different manner. His name was Yu-ha-see, and inasmuch as his counsel, none other than ex-Chief Justice Goodrich, invariably referred to him as "my client Ahasuerus," he may have been very properly entitled to an appeal. Summary justice was meted out to him. He was taken to Fort Snelling Tuesday, indicted by the Grand Jury Thursday, tried and convicted of murder Friday, and on Saturday sentenced to be hung, Judge Hayner presiding. If the statute at that time had not ordained the lapse of a year between sentence and execution, "Ahasuerus" would probably have unwittingly obeyed the Scriptural injunction as to "six days shalt thou labor," and have rested forever, on the seventh. As it was he was not hung till two years later, and so, with its incorporation as a city St. Paul also had a condemned murderer within its city limits, awaiting early city justice.